Search engine marketing, or SEM, is an important tool that search engine marketing professionals use to advertise their company’s products and services on the internet. This tactic can be used to accomplish several goals, including to increase site visibility and boost organic search results. Understanding how SEM works and why it’s important is the first step to optimizing your organization’s search engine marketing efforts.
What Is SEM?
Search engine marketing is a marketing strategy in which a company or brand promotes its website through advertising and optimization. The goal of SEM is to increase organic traffic to a website by optimizing or advertising in a way that puts the website higher in the results on a search engine results page (SERPs). SEM includes several components, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid search.
For example, an SEM strategy a company may use would be to purchase ads to appear at the top of a SERP so that the company’s website is one of the first results shown when someone searches for a related keyword. This type of paid search is accompanied by an “Ad” designation that informs users that the website is a paid placement.
Another example of paid search SEM is pay-per-click marketing. PPC is when a company or brand is charged each time users click on their ad on a search page.
While SEM often refers to paid search strategies, a good search engine marketing plan will also include search engine optimization. For example, a company may purchase ads on a SERP as well as optimize its website with high-quality keywords to further encourage organic traffic to its site.
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How Is SEM Different From SEO?
Search engine optimization refers to tactics used to increase organic traffic to a website. Tactics include both off-page and on-page strategies and are aimed at organically (not by paid advertisement) boosting a site’s position on search engine results pages to maximize the visitors to the website. The primary difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO focuses mainly on increasing organic traffic through the optimization of a website without using paid ads, whereas SEM encompasses both SEO strategies and paid search strategies.
Examples of SEO include:
- On-page tactics – This is when a website is optimized based on keywords that target your ideal audience. For example, you may include a primary keyword in the title of a webpage and in the webpage’s URL.
- Off-page tactics – This approach is based on boosting a website’s credibility by getting other websites to endorse and promote your page via high-quality backlinks. Other off-page examples include social media shares and E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
- Technical SEO – This SEO tactic is focused on ensuring the website’s site architecture is correct and easily accessible to crawling by search engines like Google.
- User interaction – This SEO strategy is concerned with ensuring users not only click on your website but that they spend enough time on it to show Google your website is of high quality.
As you can see, SEO includes no paid search strategies but instead focuses on increasing organic traffic by optimizing a website.
Another difference between SEO and SEM is how long it takes to see results. SEO strategies can take a significant amount of time to yield results, especially when a website is new. According to Ahrefs, it can take up to two years for a website to rank on the first page of a Google search results page, and only 22% of webpages that currently rank on the first page were created within the last year.
However, it’s important to note that it won’t necessarily take your website two years to rank; using a solid SEO strategy and staying on top of your website optimization can drastically increase how quickly you experience results.
On the other hand, SEM strategies that include paid search tactics like PPC can yield results almost immediately. For example, you could run an ad on a Google SERP and begin to notice increased traffic that same day. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll start to see an increase in sales, just that more users are being exposed to your website. It can take several months of implementing, analyzing, and tweaking your paid search efforts to experience a return on investment.
Another key difference between SEO and SEM is that SEM strategies based on paid search will no longer yield results once you stop buying ads, but SEO efforts will continue to produce results, especially after your website ranks high on SERPs. For example, once your paid search ad is taken off the front page, you’ll no longer experience the increased traffic brought in by that ad. But, when your website reaches a high ranking through SEO, it will stay there and continue to bring in new traffic.
Why Is SEM Important?
SEM is an incredibly important part of a company’s online marketing strategy and is one of the best and most effective ways to increase internet traffic via targeted ads and SEO. Because the majority of people rely on the internet to find new products and services, ranking high on a search engine page can significantly increase your business and bottom line.
Other reasons SEM is important include:
- Increased revenue – Incorporating paid search into your online marketing strategy can significantly increase your return on investment. According to Google, businesses make an average of $2 for every $1 they spend on Google AdWords. This is a 50% ROI rate, which is significantly higher than SEO alone.
- Higher conversion rates – SEM also drives conversions for companies because paid ads are often connected to conversion-oriented sales or landing pages that keep a visitor moving through the sales funnel. This increases the chances of a visitor purchasing a product after visiting your website.
- Better local marketing – Using SEM can increase your local website traffic and drive sales by boosting your company’s exposure to a local audience.
- More qualified leads – SEM allows you to tailor your search ads to a specific audience so that you’re bringing in qualified leads that are more likely to convert.
Incorporating SEM into your online marketing strategy can significantly increase your organic website traffic and boost your bottom line.